by Ron Langston
Part 11 - "The Port Master of Livorno"
As Italian port cities go, Livorno has the feel of Luciano Pavorotti's
gastrointestinal tract after all-you-can-eat night at Macaroni Grill -
it's seen better days. The rats jumping off the crusted tankers sitting
in drydock know that the Cheeses of Tuscany platters you ordered for
grandma aren't shipping out any time soon, so they're free to roam the
docks for German sailors to follow until fetid linguini droppings spill
down their unshaven cheeks, past their greasy, lice-ridden uniforms,
down to the assembled congregation of fellow bottom-feeders. No one
knows the hazards of Livorno's sloth better than Giacamo Pastucci,
Dickory Farms' Tuscan delivery manager.
Pastucci, a man out of a Homeric battle on the plains of Ilium, showed
me the ramparts of the daily war to move his massive stockpile of
parmesan wheels and stone wheat crackers out of port. The stench of the
composting failed deliveries could be detected over the powdered pier
whores selling their wares to lonely shipping clerks. "You don't want
to know what those hags will do for beef stick," he explained. And I
would not argue with a man who knows where all the canned sausage is
buried. Still, even a warrior-god-king like Pastucci would not touch
the storied Prosciutto Log of Livorno.
The original log was intended for Mrs. Sylvia Markind of Jenkintown,
Pennyslvania, back in '65. When the stevedores struck that year,
demanding a higher starch allowance, Pastucci was unable to ram his Fiat
pick-up through their line to the outgoing tanker. The log remained in
its shipping crate, though no one had any comprehension it would be
there to this day. Forgotten during the Fondue Craze of the 1970s,
hapless clerks began piling log upon log alongside the original,
thinking that it must be the storage location for such items. By the
time the 47th post-war Italian government fell after the Mastabatucci
scandal, the logs spilled out of their original crate, taking over an
entire wharf. Not even a Sicilian doctor would test the bacteria levels
of the nearby bilge tanks, and the ecosystem would have to find its own
equilibrium. To this day, few even approach the log-infested wharf, but
Pastucci is a man who knows what to do with a cheese knife.
Next week: Part 19 - "Log Rolls"
(Transcribed by Slick Sharkey)